Why do I always play worse against better players?

I’m sure I’m not the only snooker player to wonder why my best game deserts me just when I need it most – particularly when I know that my opponent is dangerous.  However, I might be one of the first players to prove that this effect is real, by reference to my detailed statistics. My mate Steve is a level above me, but his stats so far on this website match up pretty well with my best games.  Problem is, my performances against him really are amongst the worst matches I’ve recorded – sometimes even being the worst performances since [MySnookerStats] records began! Studying the stats tells me some things which I hadn’t been able to quantify till now – I can see just how much I allow my style of play to change when I’m up against a better player, and so often in exactly the wrong way.  For example, I’m way more aggressive against him.  Steve’s potting is so strong that he can afford to go for far more long shots than I can – and I find myself trying to match him.  It doesn’t work, and the numbers are there as a permanent reminder of that.  Also, Steve flies round the table; he’s so much more natural as a player, he doesn’t need to settle himself on each shot the way I do.  So what happens?  My shot time drops too – after all, I don’t want to be seen to be slow.  Madness! So will I learn?  About three years ago, I used to play Steve a lot more often, and it’s no coincidence that that was when I played my best snooker.  I still know now what I knew then, and I’ve probably learnt a lot more technical stuff besides.  But now that I play such strong opponents so rarely, I’ve lost that confidence that used to allow me to try to compete with him on my own terms. Obviously, every time I play him I get more used to the challenge and the pressure – but it hurts to get beaten so comprehensively, and I have to be brave to keep coming back for more.  Still, now that I’ve seen my stats and determined this flaw in my approach, you can bet I’ll be working on that the next time we play. The bottom line in this game seems to be that you need to lose a lot of games in order to get better.  But if you can handle the knocks, the improvements are there to be reaped. Good luck!

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